Review: Girl Parts by John M. Cusick
Title: Girl Parts
Author: Cusick, John M
Length: 218 pages
Genre: Fiction, Young Adult, General
Publisher / Year: Candlewick Press / 2010
Source: Lent to me by the lovely Colleen
Why I Read It: It sounded interesting and Colleen thought I would enjoy it (she was right).
Date Read: 28/08/10
This book sounds odd, but believe me it’s really great. I am not sure I can do the book justice by attempting to summarize it, so here is what the book itself says:
“Hello, David. My name is Rose. It’s a pleasure to meet you. We are now entering minute two of our friendship. According to my Intimacy Clock, a handshake is now appropriate.”
David and Charlie are opposites. David has a million friends, online and off. Charlie is a soulful outsider, off the grid completely. But neither feels close to anybody. When David’s parents present him with a hot Companion bot designed to encourage healthy bonds and treat “dissociative disorder,” he can’t get enough of luscious, redheaded Rose – and he can’t get it soon. Companions come with strict intimacy protocols, and whenever he tries anything, David gets an electric shock. Parted from the boy she was built to love, Rose turns to Charlie, who finds he can open up to her, knowing that she isn’t real. With Charlie’s help, the ideal “companion” is about to become her own best friend.
In a stunning and hilarious debut, John Cusick takes rollicking aim at Internet culture and our craving for meaningful connection in an uber-connected world.
Now, let me begin by saying that I did not find anything in this book remotely funny. Maybe I giggled once or twice, but in no way hilarious. Stunning yes, hilariuos no. And I’m not sure either that I would say the book takes aim at internet culture. Craving for meaningful connection yes, internet culture no. So that last sentence has it all wrong. Rant over.
David is a rich boy. He’s Mr. Popular at school, and thinks he can get away with anything. His parents are fairly absent, he drinks, smokes, drives way too fast, and generally is out looking for trouble. When his school counselor tells his family he suffers from “dissociative disorder” they get him Rose. With Rose he finally starts making a connection and starts to mellow out – but is it enough?
I wasn’t sure at first how Charlie fit in to the story. He was the complete opposite of David. A bit of a loner, off the grid, lives with his father across the lake from David’s family. When he does come in though, it was brilliant. I loved his interactions with Rose and how he saw her as a real person… for the most part.
This book, to me, takes a really hard look at gender roles and expectations for teens in dating. Rose is, essentially, a robot. Connected via ethernet to satellites so that she can constantly update and increase knowledge, she responds as a normal human – if you don’t know, you would think she was human. She is incredibly insightful and smart. Watching her progress and become more and more real and gain more of a personality through the book was fascinating.
Rose is a Companion. A robot designed to be the perfect companion for a young boy having issues with interpersonal relationships. She controls the level of intimacy through electric shocks if the boy tries to go too far. She is constantly thinking about pleasing the boy, constantly trying to make him happy, constantly trying to be ‘perfect’ and always thinking of him. It was chilling to read, because it was like a throw-back to relationships years ago.
Think about it. Who was supposed to control the intimacy level in the relationship? Why girls of course, guys have to be taught better. And who was supposed to sacrifice for the other? Why girls of course. And not have a voice, agree with the partner? Yep, you got it. And though physical relations aren’t supposed to happen right away… the main goal is babies right? That is what women are good for.
What was especially scary was that these old fashioned notions were in the future. Oh please let us not go there! All of these issues come up in the book and are dealt with in a really interesting manner. I loved Rose and how through creating her as a Companion bot Cusick examined all of these issues. From the blurb it seems this isn’t what the book was SUPPOSED to be about, but it sure did a great job, in my mind. I highly recommend this book for the interesting relationship issues that come up in it!